World War Two Lancaster crash site to be excavated in Germany

German authorities are trying to find the family of a World War Two crewman who crashed in Germany.

Gordon Grogan was a radio operator aboard a Lancaster bomber that took off on a mission over Germany from RAF Metheringham in 1944. The plane never made it back to Britain and was documented as missing in military records.

The flight was part of a bombing raid on Bremen. It is believed that the plane and eight crew had successfully fulfilled their mission and were on their return to the UK when the plane crashed in a field near Cloppenburg, Germany.

It was the International Red Cross which found the crashed aircraft and reported the remains to British authorities. Straight after the war, the RAF investigated the crash site and was able to retrieve two of the crewmen’s bodies – John Barlow and Ronald Paul. They were both buried in nearby Becklingen War Cemetery.

None of the other crewmen were found and they were memorialised on the RAF memorial in Runnymede.

The family of Flight Engineer Ronald Barton, one of the missing men, have now launched a battle to have the crash site fully investigated before developers rebuild on top of the field where the aircraft crashed. They are now seeking any remaining family members of the other missing crewmen to support their cause.

Gordon’s parents were Robert and Bertha Grogan from Frimley Green, but no other family members are known.

The Barton family has visited the crash site in Germany and met eyewitnesses of the crash in 1944. Those who witnessed the crash say that there must still be remains of the crewmen in the ground. They recall how the plane exploded as it hit the ground and created four big craters in the field.  They remember finding some of the crew’s belongings, such as handkerchiefs and shoes, Get Surrey reports.

The Bartons wish to find as many family members of other missing crewmen as possible, so that they can have more impact in persuading the German authorities to investigate the site further.

Since 1946 and the original RAF investigation, no further work has been done at the site to secure the crew’s remains or the wreckage. So far the Barton family has had an archaeological excavation of the site approved before developers are allowed to begin work.

The British Ministry of Defence has agreed to conduct DNA tests on any remains that may be recovered from the site.  The German War Graves Commission will be attending the excavations.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE